A packed and buzzing Rappahannock kicked off a reception last night celebrating its own recognition as one of the best restaurants of 2014 and Virginia’s designation as the “Food Region of 2015,” both according to Esquire magazine. The atmosphere was congratulatory, with producers beaming from behind their stations–oysters on the half-shell, Sam Edward’s ham, Border Springs lamb, and plenty of wine poured, with characteristic flourish, by Barboursville’s Jason Tesauro.
At a certain point during the reception, the usual din of the crowd turned into a distinct buzz, as a black SUV produced Governor Terry McAuliffe, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore, and First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe. The Governor worked the room, handshakes and smiles, a well-paced lap around the crowded bar. When he extended a hand toward mine saying, “Hi. Terry McAuliffe,” I was, though I had seen him making steady progress toward me, unprepared. And, giddy in the presence of high-ranking Democrats, I was unable to share with him all the research I’d done around Virginia agriculture, food deserts, or policy in general.
After a few brief words of congratulations by Todd Haymore, McAuliffe addressed the crowd with a shuffle through the Terry McAuliffe Greatest Hits album: Women’s rights–no women’s health clinics have been forced to close since McAuliffe has taken office, LGBT rights–moving forward by strides, with McAuliffe as only the third governor to have presided over a gay wedding; but McAuliffe ended his address reminding us that we are still tied for fifth with Texas for wine production and encouraged us to “drink as much Virginia wine as possible.” It’s our civic duty.
McAuliffe introduced his wife, Dorothy, who has made eradicating childhood hunger in the state her focus during her time as First Lady of Virginia. The mother of five spoke on the issue of food security, saying that, “In a state known for such abundance, there’s no reason that children, families, and individuals should ever know hunger.”
The governor raised a glass (of Virginia wine), toasting to the hosts, Travis and Ryan Croxton, and to all the producers under the spotlight, praising Virginia’s wineries, cideries, and breweries; and lauding the establishment of the state’s largest hops yard and the region’s first commercial-scale hops production and processing facility at Black Hops Farm. He wrapped up the toast with a nod to the Stone Brewing Co. deal, citing the financial stimulus the deal will mean for the city, due to job creation and tourism revenue.
The evening was a concert for Virginia’s finest to show what exactly has put them in the national limelight–exquisite Surryano ham; Border Springs/Edwards lamb ham (which was the jam); cider-glazed lamb ribs with peanuts, gorgeously rich and fatty; crispy fried quail with a tart concord sauce and bright parsley salad by The Shack’s Ian Boden; and many, many Rappahannock oysters on the half shell. And that was just the reception.
Then came the four-course feast, starting with Dylan Fultineer’s sea bass: crispy-skinned and flaky-bodied with fregola and slivered castelvetrano olives. Border Springs delivered a rich and complex lamb’s neck and oyster stew. And pastry gods Evrim and Evin Dogu from Sub Rosa Bakery ended the meal with a delicate maple ice cream and toasted rye muesli, drizzled with Black Creek Farm honey and gilded with edible flowers. Each beverage pairing was a perfect match, from the Foggy Ridge Cider accompanying Adam Musick’s1 Berkshire pork loin with rye knefla and honeycrisp apple butter to Champion Brewing Co’s Black Me Stout (one of three drinks paired with dessert), though only a constitution firmer than mine could’ve possibly enjoyed them all. In the end, the theme of the evening was abundance, and Virginia’s clearly got it, from the mountains to the coast.
Food News: Top-tier pho and ramen coming soon, the current state of #rvadine, a Taste of Richmond, and a rooftop juice bar
The week in food
It’s almost go-time for the new Pho 95 Hi Ky Mi Gia concept at Willow Lawn, and I’m excited because I love nothing more than a delicious bowl of hot pho this time of year, and this place is dangerously close to my day job. Eileen Mellon at Richmond Magazine says married couple and co-owners Christine and Steven Phan have quite a following on the pho circuit. Here’s a little more about them and when you can expect the restaurant to officially open.
Speaking of hot bowls of awesome, a popular DC ramen joint is heading to Richmond for one night only. Toki Underground will pop up at Carytown cocktail bar The Jasper on Sunday, March 1st at 5:00 PM. Tickets are $16 per person and you can be guaranteed they’ll sell out. Karri Peifer has the absolutely delicious-looking menu over on Richmond.com for your viewing pleasure.
Speaking of special events and the RTD, they’ll host their Taste of Richmond event at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa in Short Pump on May 3rd. This year’s featured restaurants include Mama J’s, Mantu, Dover Hall, the Salty Pig, Hobnob, La Vita E’Bella Ristorante Italiano, Fall Line Kitchen & Bar, Natalie’s Taste of Lebanon, Texas de Brazil, and more. An all-access pass to enjoy unlimited samples is $75, and there’s a discount code available here.
Over at Richmond Magazine, Piet Jones has an excellent snapshot of the current moment in Richmond’s dining scene evolution through interviews with industry veterans including An Bui, Kelli Lemon, Michelle Jones, and others who have been instrumental in the #rvadine scene’s meteoric rise.
There’s a new kind of rooftop bar coming to the Fan. No, this one won’t be overflowing with spirits a la Scott’s Addition, but rather, a rooftop juice bar. The Pit and the Peel is moving their VCU location a block from where they currently are, having recently purchased a building at 1210 W. Main Street. This seems like a really cool idea and – if they’re investing just south of a million on a full renovation, clearly the VCU location is doing quite well. More here.
The Big Kitchen, Tazza Kitchen’s gourmet to go, Brew Thru-style concept in Scott’s Addition closed months ago, so seeing that the closure just now made the news over at BizSense surprised me, but then again maybe I was the only one who went there almost weekly. Picking up dinner to go there was tasty, convenient, and dare I say fun – all the convenience of a fast-food drive-thru with far superior food and service by Tazza. That said, most times I picked up, my order was the lone bag sitting on the shelf of the glass door refrigerators in the covered bay. So I wasn’t totally surprised, albeit definitely disappointed, when they closed. All that said, looks like the owners are brewing up a new restaurant concept for the space. Mike Platania at Richmond BizSense has more.
- Croaker’s Spot (Style Weekly)
View this post on Instagram
Food News: A “last last call” for Comfort, 24 hours in “Hell” with Gordan Ramsay, and #rvadine regulars
The week in food
If you didn’t get a chance to get into Comfort before the restaurant officially closed for business, you’ll have one more chance this weekend. The restaurant will reopen Saturday night for a “last last call” party. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Stop in at 6:00 PM until everything’s gone – and that includes food, booze (even rare bourbons apparently), and some of the restaurant’s memorabilia. It’s your last chance to enjoy the iconic restaurant. Yes, really this time. More here.
What happens when Gordan Ramsay shows up at your restaurant dressed as an old church lady at your restaurant? You spend the next 24 hours in the kitchen filming a TV show, as one local restaurant owner found out. Shane Roberts-Thomas, the owner of Southern Kitchen in Jackson Ward, was recently featured on Ramsay’s TV show “24 Hours To Hell And Back” which airs on FOX. Ramsay typically disguises himself when he shows up at restaurants who have agreed to participate in the show. She was contacted in advance about the possibility of a TV show filming there, but she didn’t know which one she’d be on – or if it would happen. She spent the next day (yes, non-stop) filming. Karri Peifer with the RTD has a great interview with Roberts-Thomas in advance of the episode, which airs Friday night at 9:00 PM. Check it out here.
A new chicken wing joint is coming to the Fan. The Cocky Rooster, at 2523 W. Main Street across from 3 Monkeys, won’t just be another restaurant with wings, but rather one that focuses on them, with other offerings. The joint will supposedly be open until 3:00 AM on the weekends, competing with nearby Benny Ventano’s Pizza that caters to the late-night, post-bar (read: hammered) crowd. Richmond BizSense has all the details here.
HogsHead Café, a popular and delicious barbecue and comfort food joint in the West End (one that I discovered by accident about six months ago), is moving to a bigger location. They’ll take over the space formerly occupied by Havana ’59’s West End outpost before it closed. I always like to see locally-owned West End restaurants, which are increasingly fewer and farther between, succeeding amongst the bevy of chains. More here.
Over at Richmond Magazine, Genevelyn Steele has an intriguing interview with bar regulars (we’re talking folks that, in some cases, are at their favorite haunt almost every night) and what keeps bringing them back. We’re running the gamut here from L’Opossum to Home Team Grill. I found this one fascinating. Read it here.
View this post on Instagram
Food News: Fighting Fish and Canasta’s expands, grocery store love, and a new taqueria in the Fan
The week in food
As we settle into February, the Richmond restaurant scene is a bit dimmer without several mainstays among the ever-growing crowd that is the Richmond dining scene. Comfort and Aloi served their last meals since we last talked, and Acacia mid-town closes after service on Saturday evening. But 2020 promises new restaurants, concepts, and ways to push the #rvadine scene to the next level, no doubt.
For their part, Acacia is having a restaurant yard sale of sorts following their closure. Everything from wine and glassware to tables and chairs is up for grabs on Tuesday, February 11th from 3:00 until 6:00 PM. Check out how you can get your hands on a piece of the restaurant’s history here.
In the new restaurant realm, Richmond Restaurant Group’s latest venture, Barrio Taqueria & Tequila, is now open in the former Pearl Raw Bar space. I stopped by last Friday night and checked out their digs. The tacos, available on either flour or corn tortillas, are pretty tasty, especially the carne asada variety. The street corn (served shaved off the cob) and margaritas are both on point, too. This will be a cool hangout in the spring and summer months with the new garage doors installed around the building to allow in fresh air. Check out my photos here, and Karri Peifer has a writeup.
Jackson Ward hole-in-the-wall Fighting Fish is expanding its empire with a second location in Scott’s Addition, Richmond BizSense reports. The restaurant, which offers tasty sushi, sushi burritos, poke bowls, and more will take over the former Elsa Ethiopian restaurant on Arthur Ashe Boulevard near the 7-Eleven. More on the new location here.
Our intrepid southside reporter Richard Hayes has news of Canasta’s Chicken, a Peruvian chicken outlet with an existing location on S. Laburnum Avenue, opening in Stratford Hills. I’ve never been, but he likens the menu to Chicken Fiesta, but more Peruvian leaning than Tex-Mex. Check out his report here.
I’ve said it for years (and our website hits back it up) – Richmonders love their grocery stores. Whole Foods Market opened its new location in the Fan last week, and a crowd that stretched around the block welcomed the grocer with open arms. Style Weekly’s Phaedra Hise opines on something that hadn’t even occurred to me: they may be the first to be able to pick up where Ukrop’s left off in terms of offering a higher quality product and service – where other grocers have failed in the past decade (Martin’s, anyone?). The company even hired a thirty-year Ukrop’s alum to run the store. Read her story here.